Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The pet industry's dirty secret: What to know before you buy for your dog

(ARA) - For dog owners, there are no two ways about it - pets are part of the family. You want your four-legged companion to be as happy and healthy as any other member of your family. Many of the things you buy for your human loved ones - like food, medicine and beauty products - are regulated by agencies that make sure those products are safe. You might assume that there are similar restrictions on pet products, but unfortunately, that's not the case.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that accurate ingredient lists be put on human items like shampoos and soaps. The agency strictly regulates supplements intended for human consumption. Though laws regulate what advertising claims can be made on pet supplies for dogs, the FDA does not regulate shampoos used on pets unless the shampoo is classified as a drug, e.g., anti-dandruff. This means that many manufacturers are misleading the public as to what is in their shampoos. Even when some manufacturers claim drug facts, many forgo the costly product registration process and unfortunately are too low a priority to get noticed by the FDA.

Given the trend toward organic products, some vendors make claims about their products being all natural when they are not - often with impunity. Worse yet is the fact that they might not honestly list the ingredients in the product, which could be harmful for your dog. A short ingredient list is a red flag that you might not be buying an honest product.

"Without a thorough and honest ingredient list, it can be hard to recognize that some pet shampoos are actually products made for humans, just re-labeled," says Lorenzo Borghese, who founded Royal Treatment pet products out of concern for the skin problems his own dog was experiencing. He notes that while that might not sound too bad, human soaps are bad for dogs' skin. "Human skin is acidic, while dogs' is alkaline, and a product intended for human consumption has an improper pH which can cause the skin to burn or become irritated."

Adding to the problem, foaming agents like sodium laureth sulfate, often found in human shampoos, strip oils off the skin. Human skin is porous, so it can naturally replenish those oils, but dogs' non-porous skin can't, leaving them with extremely dry skin. That is often a big part of why veterinarians only recommend washing your dog every four to eight weeks.

For those looking for a natural dog shampoo, the problem of incomplete labels is frustrating, and even more so when trying to help a pet with skin and coat problems. Borghese's Royal Treatment line of shampoos and conditioners was formulated with ingredients that are ideal for animals' sensitive skin, all of which are listed on the label. Because the products are sold on television they have to meet rigorous standards and have complete and verified ingredient lists.

The same problematic lack of regulation that affects topical pet care products also makes it difficult for pet owners to know whether pet health supplements are safe and effective.

The low cost of overseas production often means that manufacturers will outsource the work of producing pet supplements. That also means that there is sometimes a lack of oversight and quality control - pet supplements might not contain the ingredients in the amount claimed on the bottle. For pet owners who want to take care of health issues like joint stiffness or a poor coat, it's almost impossible to verify whether the supplement they're giving their pet has the ingredients it claims in the active quantity listed on the label.

Working with renowned veterinarian Dr. L. Phillips Brown, Borghese also launched a line of supplements for dogs with the same principles of providing verifiable ingredients that are ideal for pets. "The ingredients in these supplements are standardized," Brown says. "They are made in the United States, and what's on the label is in the product." Batch testing helps to verify that ingredients are present in the correct amounts that are necessary for the supplements to be effective.

Knowing precisely what you're giving your dog is important. It can be difficult to take the guess work out of shopping for pet supplements and care products, but the most important thing to demand is information about the exact ingredients in everything from food to shampoo to supplements. Armed with that knowledge, you can give your pet a healthy, happy life. For more information on pet-safe products, go to www.royalpetclub.com.


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